Before their intimate show at LCT3, it’d been two years since I last saw Freestyle Love Supreme (FLS). Two years since I experienced this group of actors, musicians and lyrical geniuses for the first time and two years of me itching for more. As the talented Andrew Bancroft, Chris Jackson, Arthur Lewis, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill Sherman and Chris Sullivan opened my second ever freestyle rap show with their classic “Microphone Check”; the excitement I had two years ago came rushing back.
While the structure of their shows remains the same, the style of their performance is what keeps their fans and folks like me coming back for more. An FLS concert gives you the rush of a freestyle battle, the physical comedy of an improv show and the talent of a Broadway musical. The performers rely on audience participation, as well as the game-like format for each song, to guide them throughout the evening. FLS uses rap to introduce themselves, to present the layout of the evening and as a source of actual LOLs. You literally cannot go wrong.
Toward the beginning of the night, Lin-Manuel sat in the middle of the stage while Shockwave (Chris Sullivan) looked on and dropped a beat for him to rap over. With Chris Jackson pulling a handful of words from a glass bowl that the audience contributed to upon entering the venue, Lin rapped like wildfire about the “Foundations of Freestyle.” During “What Y’all Know” (an easy crowd favorite), the guys asked us for suggestions of a person, place and thing—each taking a word and using it as content for their next freestyle. Tonight’s nouns were Justin “Beaver,” Neverland, and Kerry Washington. From Scandal to Peter Pan and unruly pop stars—FLS used this opportunity to flash their flexibility and knowledge on pop culture.
“True,” a song about factual experiences, ushers in one of a few raps based on real-life events. With “Second Chance”, FLS illustrates an audience member’s traumatic event and then reinvents it to be, well, a little less…shitty. During “Day In the Life,” the last song of the night, Shockwave embodies another audience member’s day; leading up to them attending the show. When Shockwave finally got to the end of his “day,” the guys re-started “Microphone Check” like it was the beginning of the night and instant chills hit me. In that moment, I was ready to see the entire show twenty times over.
Two years ago the concert did not feel long enough and this night was no different. Freestyle Love Supreme highlights the talent I love and admire about NYC artists. This is not your mama’s freestyle rap battle or improv sketch comedy show—it’s one long “look what I can do!” (except less Stuart-y and more Beyoncé microphone drop-y). The improvisational talent from every single performer was actually mind-blowing and I couldn’t be more excited about the next show we get to attend. What an amazing night!
RCS Takeway: 1) Forever obsessed with Arthur’s voice—let me cry for a second. 2) Billiam Sherman never ceases to amaze me. 3) #FLSforPresident